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DAL Researcher In New Venture With Charged

As if running his own lab at Dalhousie University doesn’t keep him busy enough, Lukas Swan is now working on his second business.

Swan and Chris White, a former researcher at his laboratory, are in the early stages of Charged Engineering Inc., which has developed patented technology that has improved the efficiency of lead-acid battery manufacturers.

The company has signed a contract with one manufacturer and is working on the implementation of its technology with the established company’s plant. Charged is also in Innovacorp’s CleanTech Accelerate Program, Nova Scotia’s new accelerator for cleantech companies.

“This is basically a well-established battery — the lead-acid battery,” said Swan in an interview. “It’s a competitive industry. Everybody is looking for an edge right now, and we are one of the companies that can give an edge.”

The edge that Charged brings is helping manufacturers save money and increase efficiency while making higher-quality batteries. Swan said one of the difficulties with making lead-acid batteries is the time taken in the formation stage. Formation is the process of actually charging the batteries once all the components are put in a container. It can take days. It’s expensive. And the manufacturer doesn’t know when the battery is ready, which only prolongs the process.

What Swan and White have done is produce a system that measures four variables in the battery and can tell the manufacturer when the battery is ready, and improve the battery’s performance.

Though Swan downplays the size of the market for this product, he touts the outlook for lead-acid batteries, especially in developing nations. He said small-scale, off-grid wind and solar energy installations are becoming more common in these countries, and they’ll need affordable, dependable energy storage solutions to fully benefit from this advance. Lead-acid batteries are ideal for this because they are dependable, recyclable and easy to maintain. Swan calls it “strategic technology.”

Charged Engineering is planning to bring its product to market by two streams — by retrofitting existing chargers, and by licensing the technology to manufacturers installing new chargers. Chargers are constantly being replaced so this second stream should grow as time goes on.

Swan said the company has made two patent applications, and plans to work toward a second product that would be aimed more at the consumer market. The company is conducting research and development on the product and will be patient about bringing it to market.

Swan is a professor of mechanical engineering and supervises the university’s Renewable Energy Storage Laboratory, which usually has about 10 researchers working in it. Also a wind farm entrepreneur, he’s a principal of the Colchester-Cumberland Wind Field, which has been funded by Community Economic Development Investment Funds and has been paying dividends to investors for the past two years.

So far, Swan and White have not raised equity financing, and they don’t plan to do so in the near future. They are building up their network of collaborators, and Swan raves about the support they’ve received in the local startup community.

“It’s really collaborative around here,” said Swan. “We feel very encouraged and very well supported.”